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Technological Change and Unemployment

July 1, 1983 -

A major report released last month to the European Economic Community Commission states that members of the EEC face "an unemployment problem of massive extent" during the next 10 to 15 years. It is predicted that classical full employment will remain persistently unattainable, and that by the year 2000 technological changes will have brought about structural change in the occupations of at least 50% of the Community's workforce. The report warns that failure to master the new technologies could threaten "the independence of European societies in social, cultural and political terms." It is estimated that such a failure would result in the loss of four to five million jobs to the United States and Gapan.

The authors of the report met with Canadian provincial and federal officials in Ottawa at the end of May. Stating that Canada faces many of the same problems as the EEC, they pointed out that countries must deal with the problems of institutional adaptation. One of the authors, Olav Hoist, warned: "You can delay change if you protect old fashioned industries, but we say you will lose out on long term opportunities . . . and sooner or later an earthquake will hit, as it did in the Swiss watch making industry."

The EEC report also notes that technological innovations by themselves do not guarantee growth, competitive capability or social wellbeing, and that human needs must be "brought to bear at the earliest possible stage ori the development of new technologies" if they're to be used as instruments of growth. The report finds it deplorable that the industrial and social challenges facing the world are generally seen as separate, and even conflicting objectives. (Globe and Mail, June 4, 1983)